An offseason that has already provided more than its share of shocks offered up another one today. So much for a quiet, peaceful breakfast: I was excitedly clicking weblinks and reading tweets in between mouthfuls of porridge and slurps of tea.
Cliff Lee’s future had appeared to be down to a straight choice between the New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers. However rumours of a “mystery team” refused to go away and we now know why.
The Philadelphia Phillies had staged a stealth bid to reel in the pitcher they traded away one year ago. And, incredibly, they were successful.
Only a few days ago, I was questioning if the Phillies’ reign at the top of the NL East might be about to come to an end. That comment was based on the idea that their offence had fallen from its previous level and that point still stands. What’s changed is that they might not need to score many runs to win now anyway.
Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt.
It’s a fearsome foursome, capable of causing panic throughout the National League. Never mind looking ahead to a three-game set and hoping you might get lucky and miss an opponent’s top two pitchers; you’re going to be facing at least two of the best starters in the league regardless of how the schedule falls.
Not only does it give them four excellent starters to throw at you, it also offer the Phillies the luxury of having strength in depth at one of the most important positions on the roster. If any of the four are lost to injury for a period of time, they will be missed; however, it’s easier to cope with the loss of a top starter if you’ve got another three ready to take the mound on other nights.
The Phillies’ General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr took plenty of flak for trading Lee twelve months ago. That decision was made on the understanding that the Phillies wouldn’t be able to secure Lee’s services beyond the 2010 season when he was due to hit free agency. Perhaps they would have been celebrating another World Series in 2010 if they had figured out a way to sign Halladay and keep Lee around in the first place? Maybe, maybe not.
Situations can change over the course of a year and we can’t simply say ‘if they can afford him now, they could have afforded him then’. It’s possible that spending time in Seattle and Texas during this year made Lee realise that Philadelphia was where he (and his family) really wanted to be and they were now prepared to accept a bit less money to make it happen.
Whether by accident or design, the end result is that the Phillies have secured the services of Halladay and Lee for several years to come on contracts that other teams were prepared to outdo.
The team with the most wins in the Majors in 2010 just got even better and I can’t wait to see what the Rangers and Yankees do in response.